NZXT Sentry Mix Fan Controller Review

nVidia_Freak - 2011-08-11 18:17:55 in Cooling
Category: Cooling
Reviewed by: nVidia_Freak   
Reviewed on: August 28, 2011
Price: TBD

Introduction:

Noisy fans? Not enough airflow? These are just two of the more popular reasons to get a fan controller. But which to buy? Say your fans are putting out a fair amount of cubic feet of air every minute, but it isn't enough for you. Your soul craves, no, thirsts for more; more speed, more sound, more airflow. What then should one do? Most fan controllers offer only four channels at a meager 25 or 30 Watts per. This lack of power and control is not fit for you. What then should one look toward to satisfy this demand? No further than NZXT's Sentry Mix. The Sentry Mix aims to placate the ravaging beast within with six channels, each capable of being supplied 50 Watts per channel. Without a doubt, this claim alone ought to be enough to pique your interest.

NZXT plans to release the Sentry Mix before the year's end, but when? Whom else can say other than NZXT? All the more important, art thou capable of quelling the savage nature of thy lust for more air flow? Perhaps a peek at what is to be in store will calm this feeling long enough. Perhaps even long enough so as to prevent your devourment, your utter destruction by that which you cannot control! Come, let us tarry no longer! For I see in your eyes, now more than ever before, that you are already losing control. There it is! Look! Look and be relieved of your burden if but only for a short time. I hope only for both our sakes that it is for long enough...

 

Closer Look:

A pleasant change from NZXT this time around is a fully colored box! A clean and modern design certainly helps to portray NZXT's product in an attractive light. Unchanged, however, is the standard information NZXT provides. The Sentry Mix is capable of controlling a maximum of six fans and providing each channel with 50 Watts. If each channel is maxed out, that makes for a total of 300 Watts for fans alone! Another positive change is the external labeling of each channel to eliminate guessing at any point which slider controls which fan. Additionally, each marker is backlit by its own set of LEDs. The colors of the LEDs can be switched at the press of a button between red, green, white, and two shades of blue, one primary and one secondary. Curiously, NZXT states on the box that orange is one of the selectable colors, but a second shade of blue has been used instead. The Sentry Mix's potentiometers are set to provide no less than 4.8v at the lowest setting so that connected fans can be silenced without detrimental affects to airflow and cooling. Included are a set of four mounting screws and an installation foldout. The Sentry Mix is long enough to be mounted in tool-less drive bays without issue, which is definitely a plus. Interestingly, NZXT provides some insight as to the origins of the Sentry Mix's name. NZXT claims the design was inspired by mixing boards at concert venues, which the sliders and markings mimic well enough. By extension, since mixing boards supply a considerable amount of power to the stacks as compared to speakers, so too does this fan controller provide considerable power to the fans, as compared to most controllers. Thus the name Sentry Mix is born.

 

 

The sliders on the Sentry Mix have a full range of motion from top to bottom and are attached to linear potentiometers. Power is supplied to the fan controller by two standard 4-pin Molex connectors, a sure sign that 50 Watts per channel is not simply a facetious boast. Each channel has its own detachable cable should removal be necessary to facilitate case cleanliness. Each cable, once stretched, is approximately 22" in length, providing ample reach for the largest of cases. NZXT has numerically labeled each cable, a common feature on their fan controllers, to mark which channel one fan or another is being connected to. Furthermore, the numbers on the cables and the front of the controller correspond to one another to make controlling fans a breeze.

 

 

Closer Look: Installation

Installing the Sentry Mix is no different from installing an optical drive. The sides are extended well enough so that even tool-less bay cases will have no issue securing the controller in the bay. Although the solid faceplate does not blend with mesh quite as well as, say, NZXT's Sentry Mesh, it's not quite as much of a bother as I had initially thought. All of the LEDs light up uniformly and are diffused enough that they aren't bright to the point of annoyance, but not so much that they are difficult to observe. The white color, however, is rather dizzying. Particularly when viewed directly or close to it and then averting my gaze, the RGB spectrum is visible for the briefest of moments. Doing this continuously only makes the effect more noticeable and the nausea more pronounced. I recommend not using this color. Otherwise, all is well.




 

 

 

 

 

 

 




 

 

 

Specifications:

Bay Size 5.25"
Color Black
Material Plastic and rubber
Controller type Linear potentiometers
Controller channels
Six
Fan connectors
3-pin
Power
50W per channel
LED Colors
Red, blue (2), green, white
Voltage control (Min/max)
4.8V / 12V

 

Features:

 

 

 

Information courtesy of NZXT @ http://www.nzxt.com/new/

Testing:

Testing Setup:

Comparison Fan Controller(s):

Build Quality:

The Sentry Mix is sturdy and does not feel cheap or brittle. The rubber-finished plastic faceplate attracts smudges and stains slightly more than one of a plain plastic or metal construction, although it's of negligible importance. All the LEDs function and provide just the right amount of diffused light for all environments. Unfortunately, as with my previously reviewed fan controllers, both the potentiometers and the slider coverings are not created equally. Two of the potentiometers on the sample I received required noticeably more force to move than the others, and one required noticeably less. The covers wiggled some on the potentiometers and no two wiggled the same, including one which wiggled considerably more than the rest. Although these do not affect the final result given by the controller, it's a slight annoyance that makes itself known every time I adjust a pot. A tighter variance between them would be quite welcome.

Functionality:

Functionally, the Sentry Mix is, well, functional. It does what it's supposed to and I have no complaints about it. Despite their structural differences, all the sliders move within the same physical range and provide the same amount of adjustment. The LED color selection button is a tad more recessed than is necessary, and were it raised just a little out from the faceplate, it would be much more comfortable. Just as with the Sentry Mesh, the Sentry Mix allows amps to course through its veins at no less than 4.8V. So, no matter what, the fans are spinning and keeping things from going "pop" in the night. Remembering which fan is controlled by which pot is easy since the cables and sliders are numerically labeled. I'm also pleased to see the sliders marked along with the cables to make setup and adjustments as easy as can be. The decision to make the Sentry Mix a six channel controller was an excellent one, as, six is just the right number for the amount of fans most modern cases support. All but the most fan-crazed of you out there will be satisfied, but those users will likely be purchasing more than one controller anyway! On top of the number of channels, is the amount of power that can be delivered to each one. 50 Watts to each channel ought to feed the largest, most powerful case fan(s) you can find. All said and done, the Sentry Mix provides a little bit of tasteful glamor, a lot of functionality, and a whole lot of power to get you there.

Conclusion:

If ultra-high power draw is what you need, look no further, as NZXT's Sentry Mix can provide 300 Watts total to the fans alone. Cables are far reaching and are marked for easy identification and each slider is clearly labeled and lit for quick adjustments. Even if the amount of possible power isn't necessary, perhaps quantity is, and the Sentry Mix also proves itself here with six channels. Sturdy construction and a tasteful selection of LED colors are small, but welcomed inclusions. Possible drawbacks are the wobbly slider covers and pots that require varying resistance to move. But, as these don't affect the final result in any way, this can be largely overlooked. The Sentry Mix is due out before the end of the year, and, should it be released at a price point around $30-$35, I would easily recommend it.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: